Archive for the 'D) Science Fiction Research' Category

Building Alpha Ralpha Boulevard

Monday, October 27th, 2014

Cordwainer Smith’s novelette “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” is a central component of his future history, marking the onset of the period he called the Rediscovery of Man. Though it has come to be regarded as a classic, the story’s title, the behavior and fate of its central characters, and its underlying autobiographical sources have all retained an air of mystery. This paper argues that in writing “Alpha Ralpha Boulevard” Smith confronted his feelings about his divorce from his first wife, stressed the value of simple human kindness in his treatment of others, and thereby dissolved a serious and years-long writer’s block.

Cordwainer Smith’s centenary

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 has just published an article marking the centenary of Cordwainer Smith. I have an article upcoming in Science Fiction Studies, “Building Alpha Ralpha Boulevard,” which will be published pretty close to Linebarger’s centenary, July 11.

The Psychologist Who Empathized with Rats: James Tiptree, Jr. as Alice B. Sheldon, PhD

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

Fans and scholars have been intrigued not only by Alice Bradley Sheldon’s sustained disguise as the male writer James Tiptree, Jr., but by her earlier activities in the secret world of Army Air Force Intelligence and the CIA. Less attention has been given to her major pursuit between her careers in intelligence and sf: graduate work, teaching, and research in experimental psychology. Though her work in psychology represented the fulfillment of long-term goals, she was forced to give it up because of health problems and psychological pressures. Her subsequent fiction often displayed the influence of her psychological training and interests. Earlier life experiences may have shaped both her career in psychology and her career as a writer.

Cordwainer Smith’s Norstrilia: An Introduction

Monday, December 17th, 2012

In the spring of 1957, Paul Linebarger began to imagine the broad outlines of his first (and, as matters would turn out, his only) science fiction novel. Linebarger’s earlier published fiction had come to him quickly: two mainstream novels had each been written in a few weeks, and a suspense novel had taken months at most. He had also written several shorter pieces of science fiction, published under the pseudonym of Cordwainer Smith. Though their gestation time is unknown, each had taken Linebarger only a few hours or days to set down on paper. But his science fiction novel was different. Like the giant sick sheep that it would describe in its early pages, it swelled in size and developed in peculiar directions.

Origins of the Underpeople: Cats, Kuomintang and Cordwainer Smith

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Super-intelligent cats populated Paul Linebarger’s fictional worlds even before he acquired the pseudonym of Cordwainer Smith. Other essential elements of his science fiction may be found as early as the first Cordwainer Smith story, ‘Scanners Live in Vain’ (1950): strange survivals from various eras of post-nuclear-holocaust civilization; humans physically altered to withstand the rigors of space travel; the time- and space-spanning government known as the Instrumentality of Mankind. But the underpeople did not begin to develop until his career as Cordwainer Smith was half over, and he completed every major underpeople story during a three-year period (1961-63). Why did the underpeople emerge at this time, and what was their significance for their creator?

From Canberra to Norstrilia: The Australian Adventures of Cordwainer Smith

Saturday, December 8th, 2012

In America and around the world, the best-known depiction of future Australians is the Mad Max film trilogy. Among science fiction readers in America if not elsewhere, the best-known print depiction of future Australians is probably Cordwainer Smith’s novel “Norstrilia”. You pays your money and you takes your choice, and of course most people have chosen Mad Max. If I were Australian, I’d hope more people would choose “Norstrilia”.

Hamlet Attempts to Alleviate Ophelia’s Anxieties about Copernican Astronomy, the Impending Post-Claudius Singularity, and Other Riddles of Existence

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

Doubt thou the stars are fire;
Doubt thou the Big Bang set them all aflame;
Doubt thou the second law of thermodynamics will extinguish every final flickering photon in 10/1000 years, give or take a few trillion millennia,
But never doubt I love…..

Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award 2011

Monday, July 18th, 2011

As announced at Readercon 22 last weekend, the 2011 Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award went to Katherine MacLean. A good choice, I think — not quite as obscure as last year’s awardee Mark Clifton, but obscure enough (from the viewpoint of current science fiction readers) to need rediscovery. The really astonishing thing about this year’s Rediscovery […]

The Creation of Cordwainer Smith

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

This paper, which originally appeared in the scholarly journal Science-Fiction Studies in 1984, was my first publication on the science fiction writer Cordwainer Smith. The paper provides a basic biography of Smith (whose real name was Paul Myron Anthony Linebarger) and a psychobiographical analysis of several of his stories. Subsequently I have published several more […]

Cordwainer Smith and Cyborgs

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Steve Silberman, a contributing editor for Wired magazine, has posted an excellent article about Cordwainer Smith on his new blog NeuroTribes: . I supplied some background information on Smith (Paul Linebarger) to Steve, but he did his homework with other sources as well, and provides a very thoughtful reading of Smith’s first published science […]

The Website of Alan C. Elms